Doctors frequently diagnose and treat easily identifiable issues every day, such as broken bones or seasonal allergies. However, many patients present with symptoms that could be indicative of several different ailments. In order to come to a correct diagnosis and provide proper treatment, doctors must often use the process of differential diagnosis to rule out potential causes for the patient’s issues. If a doctor does not correctly follow the differential diagnosis process, it can result in a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose. If this causes harm to the patient, they may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

What Are the Steps Involved in Differential Diagnosis?

As part of their training, medical professionals are taught to use differential diagnosis to pare down the list of potential causes for a patient’s symptoms. There are three main steps to this process:

  • Collect information: To make a diagnosis, the doctor should gather as much information about your symptoms and medical history as possible. They should investigate whether you have a family history of any diseases, risk factors for certain illnesses, and any concomitant symptoms.
  • Compile a list: After studying all the relevant information, the doctor should assemble a list of every illness or condition that could be responsible for your symptoms. This should include both likely and possible causes.
  • Conduct tests to come to a diagnosis: Beginning with the most severe potential causes and working down to the least harmful possibilities, your doctor should run tests to determine the probable cause(s) of your health issues.

How Does Differential Diagnosis Play Into a Medical Malpractice Claim?

While differential diagnosis seems relatively straightforward, problems can be introduced into the method if doctors do not consider all the possible causes for symptoms and instead only focus on the most common causes. Even rare conditions are responsible for illness in a certain percentage of the population, and those conditions cannot be ruled out unless proper testing is performed. A failure to use differential diagnosis accurately can cause an incorrect or delayed diagnosis, which may lead to unnecessary harm to the patient’s body, needless pain and suffering, and in the worst cases, death. If a patient is injured by a doctor who did not perform a differential diagnosis, they may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me if I Was Incorrectly Diagnosed?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does not provide the standard of care expected of a similar medical professional in the same situation, and this subpar care results in harm to the patient. If your doctor did not do their due diligence and conduct a differential diagnosis, which caused you to be misdiagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis that led to injury, it could be considered medical malpractice. You deserve to be compensated for the harm you experienced due to this negligence. But medical malpractice cases are often quite complex to prove. Having the backing of a skilled personal injury lawyer with experience in investigating, filing, and negotiating these types of claims can make a world of difference in the outcome of your case. Call our firm today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.